Wednesday, October 25, 2006

From Todays Hamilton Spectator








From Today's Hamilton Spectator...... It's Amazing Greenfield Parkers Crop up everywhere....

LAST OF THE WARRIORS


Six Slaney brothers took up freedom's cause during the Second World War. Miraculously, five came home. Jim was the last. And now he's gone.
By Wade HemsworthThe Hamilton Spectator(Oct 24, 2006)
He called himself the last of the warriors, and now he is gone.
Jim Slaney was one of six brothers to serve in the Second World War, one of five to make it home alive.
He died Oct. 12 in a Hamilton nursing home at age 91, leaving behind a remarkable family tradition of service, sacrifice and strength. It was a tradition that extended to all four branches of military service, but one that had started at home.
The patriarch of the Slaney family, William, was an orphan, adopted by a farming family who mistreated him. He ran away in 1882, at the age of nine, seeking a better life on the whaling ships that sailed out of New Bedford, Mass.
Incredibly, he survived and even thrived, growing up to become a boiler mechanic and eventually settling in Cape Breton with his bride, Effie, who gave up a promising career as an opera singer to start a family.
It would be a very, very large family.
She bore 12 children in just 16 years. Two died in infancy. By the time the youngest, Adolphe, was born, the family had moved to No. 5 Greenfield Avenue in Greenfield Park, on the St. Lawrence outside Montreal.
William bought his wife a washing machine, but she never used it, insisting that she could get the clothes cleaner by hand.
Effie died in the spring of 1928, from an illness the family now believes was cancer. She was just 42.
Her youngest was just two years old, her eldest 18. She had spent her last months sewing. By the time she died, her heroic effort had produced enough clothes to get her children through the next several years.
As a single parent, William ran a strict household, where discipline was not only important, but necessary. Somehow, the kids held on to their sense of fun, especially Jim.
When the war came, the Slaneys answered the call, serving in every branch of the military. Charles joined the Sherbrooke Regiment. Russell was a sapper with the Royal Canadian Engineers, Jim a flying officer in the RCAF, Victor a Seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy. Reggie signed up with the Victoria Rifles of Canada, and young Adolphe was a gunner in the Merchant Marine, firing at German planes that strafed and dive-bombed the convoys. Understandably, given the times, Adolphe started calling himself Thomas instead.
One day in spring 1944, James and Reggie ran into one another in Trafalgar Square in London. It was a stunning coincidence, but nothing compared to the haunting turn of fate that would soon follow. In what would be their last conversation, Reggie told his big brother with cold certainty: "I'm not coming back." He said his only regret was that he wouldn't be buried in Greenfield Park. Those words have echoed across more than six decades.
Reggie would take part in the D-Day landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, an amphibious Allied assault on German-held France. It would be a turning point in the war, and in history -- one that came at a heavy price.
On that day, Jim was flying overhead in a Lancaster bomber, jamming German radar.
Below him, Jim could see fires, explosions and smoke. By then, he had already bombed many German cities, including his grandmother's hometown of Bonn. But he described what he saw along the French coast as the most terrifying sight he had ever seen.
At about the same time in Montreal, his father had a vision while lying in bed. He saw Reggie, soaking wet, saying, "I'm cold. I'm hungry. I'm tired."
Then the apparition simply disappeared. When someone came to notify him of his son's death, William told the person, "I know. Reggie's gone."
The news devastated the close family. Tom tattooed Reggie's name and the date on his shoulder.
Tom himself was wounded in the knees while shooting at German planes from the deck of his ship.
From land, sea, and air, the other boys all came home safely. One could safely describe it as miraculous, especially in Jim's case. Bomber Command suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch of the services, and he had lived through 32 sorties: 13 in Stirlings, 19 in Lancasters. After the last entry in his log book, Dec. 8,1944, Jim wrote: "alive and no visible wounds."
William, the father of all those kids, died in 1962, aged 89 years. One day, elderly and alone in Greenfield Park, he had burned the house down in a moment of inattention. He had been burning some papers in the wood stove and left the door open when he went to answer the phone.
One by one, the surviving children died, until Cecil's death in 1997 left only Jim. He didn't like being the last and would often ask, "Why am I here? All of my brothers are gone."
Jim had married after the war, but it turned out to be a mismatch and the union ended soon afterward.
He worked in sales for Domtar, and eventually was transferred to Toronto. He met Marilyn Steele, the woman he would date for 25 years, the one he called his life mate. After she died in 1999, he moved to Hamilton to be closer to her family. He loved being so close to one of the world's last two flying Lancasters at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope.
He never became a father himself, but he loved kids. And just like a kid, he loved parties and fun, especially the CNE. He once arranged to meet Marilyn's family there.
"I'll be outside the Food Building," he told them. "You can't miss me."
They didn't. He was wearing a white tux, holding a white umbrella and sitting on a white stool he had set on a white blanket.
He was mischievous, but more than anything, Jim Slaney was a proud man. He was proud of his family, his service and his country. He kept a record of the dates when his siblings died, and wrote "the last warrior" beside his own name.
Last week, his sister-in-law Joyce Slaney, who was married to Tom, came to Hamilton, where she and her sister Evelyn dutifully took care of his affairs. Following Jim's wishes, there was no funeral, but on Sunday, the family remembered him with a small wake.
In his will, Jim left what little money he had to 23 relatives of his and Marilyn's. He named only three possessions that were to go to special people in his life: his war medals, his log book and his flyer's cap.
Jim had always wanted to take some soil from the yard at No. 5 Greenfield Avenue over to Reggie's grave in France.
Joyce wants to make sure that someone fulfils that wish.

*** in the picture of the six of them... ( not very clear)
From Left to roght are...Charles,Russell,James H.,J. Victor,Reginald and Adolphe.

Thanks Ralph B.

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